Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mauritius

Mauritius

Hey guys! I’m gonna make a quick post about Mauritius because we were only there for a day, but it was really cool. First of all, let me start with some history because I didn’t even know this place existed before I found out I was going there, and I doubt any of you have either. Geographically speaking, Mauritius is a small tropical island off the coast of Africa about 560 miles east of Madagascar. The island was originally settled by the Dutch in 1638 after some of their ships were blown off course on their way to the Spice Islands and ended up there. However, due to harsh weather conditions they abandoned the island. Next, the French took over and controlled the island until 1810, turning the island from an uninhabited wasteland to a prosperous one with an economy centered around sugar production. In the Napoleonic Wars, the British took control of Mauritius and maintained control until the island’s independence in 1968. Mauritius was also the original home to the now extinct Dodo bird. Though they once flourished in the area, they were completely extinct by 1681, killed off by the settlers and their domesticated pets. This spurred the popular limerick of the time:

The Dodo
The morning was not very prophicious
When the Settlers arrived at Mauritius
They gathered the lot
Cooked them all in a pot
And declared them extinct, but delicious.

Anyways, we arrived on the island at about 8 AM and while we were very eager to disembark, the computers that we use to swipe our ID cards when getting off the ship were breaking down intermittently and it took forever to actually get off. We had group plans for the day, so even when we finally got off, we still had to wait around for the rest of our group who were some of the last people off the ship. By the time all 20 of us were assembled, we realized that the mini bus to take us to the shore was gone and we waited around for another one for the next half an hour (even though our guide assured us every five minutes that the bus would be there in 2 minutes). The bus arrived and we all piled on and were driven about a half an hour away to a little shore town. On the drive, I saw many farm towns with a crop that looked like a very long thick grass. I tried to ask the driver what it was but he didn’t speak much English. Maybe it was sugar cane? I really have no idea. As we continued on, we drove through some more residential areas and I saw little huts built in the shade of huge trees, with branches covering the entire house. Clothing lines were strung up on the branches and clothes of every color flapped in the wind as little kids scrambled and played around the thick roots of the trees. There were many tall palms burdened down by what seemed to be papayas or mangos decorating the landscape. At one point we passed a bus stop where a huge crowd of Indian people dressed in multicolored saris waited, I assumed, for their bus to work. We arrived at our destination which was a beachfront hotel that was the headquarters of the travel agency through which we had booked our day trip. They gathered us up and led us all on a winding wooden bridge that skirted the little harbor where beautiful sailboats bobbed up and down on the perfectly turquoise water. The sun was glowing, the sky clear and blue, and we boarded a large catamaran docked in the middle of the arch shaped bay. As soon as everyone had settled, the ship set sail on a five-hour ride around the island. The crew was a bunch of cool Israeli guys who blasted reggae while we chilled out with our friends and saw the sights. The island looked stunning from sea; it was covered in oddly shaped mountains and it must have been raining inland because we saw clouds of vapor rising over the island. At lunchtime, we docked near a white sand beach while the crew cooked lunch. We dove into the clear water, which was the same temperature as warm bathwater. The crew gave us snorkeling gear and we played around until lunch was ready. Once back onboard we ate the fresh fish the crew had grilled for us, it was delicious, and headed back to the dock. The day was really beautiful and even though I did not get to spend much time inland, I feel like I had a much needed day of relaxation and fun.  I don’t know if I would go back to Mauritius, just because I feel like in the small amount of time we were there, I didn’t get a good feel for the island. But, there is no denying that it was absolutely beautiful. Now, back onboard, I am sporting a ridiculous sunburn and am anticipating docking in India in about 5 days. Cheers guys!

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